“If A equals success then the equation is A=XYZ. X is work, Y is play, and Z
is keep your mouth shut.” --Albert Einstein
The second A in my B.A.L.A.N.C.E model stands for “Active Flow,” which is a termed coined by Michael Csikszentmilhayi to describe when individuals are immersed in happy and meaningful activities which allow them to simply be in the moment, rather than concerned with external payoffs such as prestige and power.Research has found that “flow” seems to be a universal trait among the most fulfilled individuals.
Think back to when you were just a spring chicken..Think of the long summer days that seemed endless and the hours you spent creating witches’ brews, forts, and games that you made up as you went along. Recall how many times you started a sentence with, “pretend that…” or “make believe we’re…”
We didn’t return home only to concern ourselves with bills, laundry, and cleaning. We stuffed our bellies until we felt satisfied, took a warm bath, and read a story that transformed our little selves into far off places, and drifted to sleep only to repeat the day again.
As a result, we didn’t lose countless hours of sleep wondering what little Jimmy thought of us, or if little Chrissy is going to play with us again tomorrow. We just existed in the present moment. We woke up the next morning, knocked on Chrissy’s door, and if she was busy, we went to the next one…No ruminating about what we could have possibly done to upset Chrissy, or comparing ourselves to little Peggy who always seems to have great hair.
Yet, as adults- we lose our play. Somewhere between the years of teenager and college student, we start to take on more responsibility and forgo our freedom. True, we no longer have parents to tell us what to eat, what time to go to bed, or who can and can’t stay the night. Yet, we lose the freedom and abandon that comes with play.
We tell ourselves, “if I just get done with a,b, and c- then I can finally relax.” So we slave away the day, and by the time we have finished, we are exhausted and can barely muster up the energy to brush our teeth and hit the hay before a new to-do list is created. There is an underlying intuition that tells us to just do, do, do before we can play. The problem is- we never end up playing. We put ourselves in work mode for so long, that play becomes the furthest thing from our mind at the end of the day.
However, many people don’t realize that by interspersing short bursts of play throughout our day- we revitalize ourselves and become more efficient and better equipped to complete each day’s to-do list.
What could you do in your day today to get back to that happy blissful state you frequently visited as a child? Yes, you probably aren’t going to walk up to your co-worker’s cubicle and open with “Hey Jim, pretend that I’m a sea lion and you are a fish that’s trying to get away.”
However, as an adult- you probably have many indulgences that let you escape in a healthy way. Whether its a trashy magazine, listening to Jeff Buckley on your iPod, pulling an office prank to lighten the mood, or building a model airplane- there are many ways to put play back in your day.
Start now by building your playlist. This list should include all the things you love doing that make life so grand. Keep this list close to you, and as you recall more items- add to it throughout the week. Then, this weekend- make it look nice, dress it up with borders, colored font, or a computer template, and send it to your local copy shop to print and laminate. This will become your playlist and can serve to transport you back to your true self throughout your days when your ego starts to lead the way.
“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing Double Dahlias in his garden.” -W. Beran Wolfe
Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area under the supervision of Dr. Richard Oelberger (PSY22186) . Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships, body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).